Why do we watch TV shows again? - The mental health of rewatching TV series (2023)

"Forget the next big thing. We're all crazy about the last big thing." - Derek Thompson,The Atlantic.

I have a list of TV shows that I've wanted to watch for a long time or that I'd like to watch one day. Whenever they come up in conversation, whether it's The West Wing or Buffy, I mention that I plan to check it out. But when it comes to sitting down and watching a show or getting to the finale and determining what comes next, I'm not going to settle on any of those series on my bucket list. Instead, I turn to something I've seen many times before, as far as I could probably quote right now. I watch Friends or Desperate Housewives instead of starting one of the shows I claim to be excited about.

And I'm far from the only one to blame as we all prefer to revisit shows over discovering new content. The pandemic only served to highlight this and draw attention to this habit ingrained in us. Classic TV shows like The Office have seen a significant increase in watch time during lockdown, even more so than new shows coming out during this time.

Why do we choose to re-watch rather than cross another series off our to-watch list?

Why do we watch TV shows again? - The mental health of rewatching TV series (1)

power consumption

Watching TV is supposed to be a low-energy task. Instead of going to the movies or the theater, you curl up on your couch or bed and put on a show to unwind for a while. The most energy consuming aspect of the activity is choosing what to watch, so we're relieved to have an entire show to binge-watch as the decision was made for us for that time frame.

TheStatus Quo Biasnotes that individuals tend to cling to previous decisions because the cost of making a new decision is mentally draining. We prefer things to stay the way they are and use our current baseline as a reference point to work from. Examples include staying in your current job to avoid having to look for a new job that you may no longer like. Buy from the same store to avoid the hassle of finding a new one. And watch a show again instead of choosing a new one to try.

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To avoid the energy-consuming task of looking through possible shows and deciding which ones to watch, we prefer to repeat a previous decision and watch something again. This election doesn't feel like an election at all, more like a continuation of when we first saw it. We rewatch shows to avoid wasting unnecessary energy on choosing what to watch instead.


I'm not going to try to convince you that monogamy is dead, but rather that TV monogamy may be on the way out. We've become commitment-phobic when it comes to TV shows, so committing to multiple seasons of a new show can feel overwhelming. After all, all it takes is one wrongful character death or one poorly executed finale to ruin everything we've set our eyes on.

One of the main benefits of re-watching a show is that you don't commit; They do not guarantee what you will see in the coming weeks or even months. Instead it's right now, just an episode or two. You can pick up and drop off as you like. You know the story, so at any point you join, feel free to visit and leave as you please. This is also why sitcoms tend to be the most newly watched shows as there are no immediate storylines to follow. Each episode is its own story.

When given the choice to watch a movie or series,Many say that they resort to a series for the smaller use. Even if they have time for an entire movie, they prefer to watch multiple episodes. It seems like a smaller price. This may also be related to people's shortened attention spans, as we find it easier to focus on one 30-minute episode at a time than an entire movie.


People don't realize how much they cling to control until they lose it. This is why sudden events can traumatize us, such as the loss of a loved one or the development of an illness. There is the event itself, but then also what that event means for us and our fragile state of being. It is the reminder that we are not in control, that life owes us nothing and that everything could be taken from us. We cannot choose our future, no matter how much we think we can.

Today control is even further from our reach. We graduated from college in unspeakable debt, it will be decades before we can ever afford a home, and many of us will end up in jobs that this economy makes us despise. We can't control when we get up, where we go to work, or where we want to live because choices are so limited. The pandemic has only deepened the lack of control as we suddenly found ourselves unable to leave our homes.

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We cling to the little things we control, and one of those things is what we observe. Streaming services like Netflix, Hulu, or Amazon Prime only serve to overwhelm us with choices. For once, we're treated to countless thrillers, comedies, dramas and more. We can choose what to watch; we have that under control. And so we can exercise that control with a safe choice considering how new a feeling is. If we go wild and don't enjoy it, we would blame ourselves for wasting valuable time. We use that control wisely and choose something familiar, if only to pretend it's a matter of control at all.

It is also a means of controlling what we see as we know what is to come. We know, at least to some extent, how funny or sad or uplifting a show is, and so we control how we feel about what we want to experience.


AccordinglyClay Routledge, a psychologist studying nostalgia at North Dakota StateThere are two types of nostalgia: historical (nostalgia for the general past) and autobiographical (nostalgia for a person's specific past). This can apply to watching movies or TV shows in two ways. We can look at older content to have historical nostalgia - "Wasn't things so much simpler before the internet?" - and revisit content to have autobiographical nostalgia - "College really was the best!"

You can rewatch the same shows that will take you to a more opportune time in your life, one that you want to remember. In addition, you can rewatch shows based on when you first saw them. If you first discovered Gilmore Girls in college and would watch it with your roommates, now you can watch it again for that same sense of security and opportunity. If Friends was something you enjoyed with your parents on a Friday night, then watching it again might make you feel closer to them.

The point is that nostalgia goes beyond the content of the TV show, but relates to everything that surrounds it. Watching a show again isn't just about that show, it's about everything that surrounds it. Who you were when you first saw it, who you saw it with, even why you saw it can have an impact.

Some shows hold a special place in our hearts or memories, and so it's only natural that we return to them when we feel a certain way or want to be remembered.

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The sheer exposure effect

The more you see someone, the closer you feel to them. It's that simple. There are exceptions to the rule, e.g. B. someone about whom you have negative connotations or conflicting personalities. But in general, we develop a liking for people we are exposed to over and over again.

Watching shows again makes you feel closer to the characters portrayed. For example, in Friends, Rachel holds a special place in my heart that makes me want to still follow Jennifer Anniston's career. My mom loved Rachel so we were watching Friends together and she mentioned how pretty or nice she is. That was passed on to me when we bonded through that mutual affection of a character. Rachel, on the other hand, is now someone I really respect, although I respect all the characters in Friends - as real fans do!

When you're feeling down or static, you want to reach out to people you know well because you feel like you can trust them more. They don't want to encounter strangers, characters who could do anything, or who are being revealed a secret that will change the way you see them. You want your friends, even if they're behind a screen.

TheSheer exposure effectdictates this, a psychological phenomenon whereby people tend to develop a liking for things they are more familiar with. By re-watching a show, we have a stronger preference for it over something we've never seen before.

The most watched series of 2020

Just in case you doubt the extent to which shows are widely viewed, let's take a lookMost Watched TV Shows in 2020. This data was obtained fromBroadband Offersand released in January 2021.

  1. The Office (US) - Minutes streamed: 57.127 billion
  2. Grey’s Anatomy – 39,405 Milliarden
  3. Criminal minds - 35.414 billion

The most-watched TV show of 2020 ended over seven years ago, yet it has graced more TV or laptop screens than any other show since or before. While Grey's Anatomy is still ongoing and Season 17 is currently airing, the large viewership is attributed to the show's addition to Disney+ and other streaming services, suggesting it's also a reboot. Criminal Minds ended in February 2020, suggesting that a large proportion of viewers will be re-watched as well.

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It's no coincidence that these were the most-watched shows of 2020, when a pandemic drove us all home and television became our primary outlet alongside food. In tough times, we searched for the comfort and nostalgia of our favorite shows.

And here is the list ofthe most watched TV shows, as of 2020, here are the titles and the percentage of viewers who have watched the series more than once:

  1. Friends - 63%
  2. Peepshow - 59%
  3. The Office (US) - 55%
  4. Brooklyn 99 - 53%
  5. RuPaul’s Drag Race – 51 %

Incredibly, more than half of the people who watch one of these shows in full will watch it one or more times. And since these shows are primarily comedies, it suggests we're doing it for reassuring purposes, rather than reliving certain dramatic moments or looking for further meaning in the script.

Is it bad to rewatch series?

By seeing programs again, we can counteract loneliness, especially in times like these. The developed bonds with characters allow you to create a social connection right from your couch. Besides, it has been shownReduce anxiety and depressive symptoms, has a calming effect on your mind.

The problem arises when you're rewatching shows as a way of living in the past. You don't want to go on and watch the same show about college again, or one that reminds you of a better time. They remain mentally fixed on this time and hold back. We refuse to enjoy the present by idealizing the past, which could include current TV shows. We need to be optimistic about the future, and part of that is expanding our selection of shows.

We don't have to think of our TV viewing habits as just what we watch, because the importance of TV has increased tremendously over the last few decades. Our choice of shows reflects our choice of values, interests, ways of thinking and sources of comfort. By re-watching a show, we prefer it to a new experience and prefer that nostalgia or control over the potential of another show. It's important to consider why we choose to watch a particular show, and when we decide to go ahead, we make it easier for ourselves by choosing shows that might fulfill the same craving.

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